Christopher Marlowe


I. Biography:

1. Son of a shoemaker, graduate of Cambridge:

2. Probably a spy or agent provocateur serving the Queen:

3. Short life ended in a tavern brawl, probably an assassination politically provoked

II. Theatrical Career:

1. Tragedies with overreachers as their principal characters: demonstrating boundless energy and ambition—the impulse to strive ceaselessly for absolute power Tamburlaine for absolute power; Jew of Malta for infinite riches; Dr. Faustus for transcendental knowledge
2. High-sounding, rhetorically powerful blank verse as the feature of characters’ speeches: Marlowe probably as the first dramatist to attempt it in British Theatre

III. Discussion of the Play:

1. Powerful opening soliloquy: revealing Faustus’ yearning for Godhead, not contented with being only a human.
2. Allegorical elements: Conflicts between Good Angel and Bad Angel as concrete representations of inner, psychological struggle; also cf. the Old Man.

3. Faustus’ foolhardiness about his loss of soul.

One reason why Faustus seems self-contradictory in his selective disbelief in the existence of hell and damnation is that he would hold on to comforting ideas but ignoring painful ones.
4. Horrifying depiction of black-magic rituals.

5. Faustus’ concern and despair about the eternal welfare of his soul.

6. Faustus’ disappointment with Mephastophilis’ service.

7. Scenes of horseplay and practical joking (suggesting the triviality of Faustus’ return for the sacrifice of his precious soul).

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